Sociology and Anthropology
Diversity; Racism; URI Undergraduates
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This ethnographic research project explored URI student experiences and perceptions of cultural and racial diversity on campus. Given the URI’s office of Community, Equity, and Diversity’s explicit goal “to create an inclusive and supportive environment where each individual can thrive”, my goal was to understand how students, in their own words, understood, experienced, and described diversity in their daily lives across campus. Data was gathered using the methods of participant-observation, visual documentation, semi-structured interviews, and on-line surveys. A grounded theory approach was applied to the data analysis, which allowed me to generate and discover theory that emerged from the data itself. It was found that although the majority of students do feel that their cultural heritage is represented at URI, many students do not believe URI is a racially diverse community. Further, more than half of survey respondents reported to have experienced racism on campus, either directly, or to have witnessed acts of racism. The most common places where racist behavior has been experienced according to respondents, are “walking around campus,” “in the classroom”, and “in housing.” The findings from the present study aim to contribute to the growing literature about how students perceive and experience diversity on the college campus.